No. 2 Florida State's task against No. 10 Louisville on Saturday just got a lot tougher.
Seminoles safety Derwin James, a USA TODAY Sports preseason All-American, will have surgery Monday to repair torn cartilage in his left knee, head coach Jimbo Fisher said during his weekly news conference.
Right now, Louisville has the No. 1 scoring offense in the country, and quarterback Lamar Jackson is an offensive machine — among FBS players he is No. 2 in scoring, No. 9 in passing, No. 3 in rushing and No. 2 in total offense.
James, who plays at all levels on the defense, would have been a key component in shadowing Jackson and giving the Seminoles hope of slowing Jackson down.
James is able to do so many things that the entire defense changes with him on the sidelines.
James has been very effective against mobile quarterbacks. He led the defense with eight tackles and an interception in the Sept. 5 win against then-Ole Miss.
"I think on the field they'll miss him with his physical abilities and leadership," Fisher said. "But I think his presence on the sideline he'll have those guys mentally ready to play too."
Florida State won’t be able to replace James with any player on the roster, and probably couldn’t replace him with any player in college football with as versatile as he is. What they will have to do is mask James’ absence.
Sophomore A.J. Westbrook is the most likely candidate start in place of James. Marcus Lewis could drop back into the free safety position, and true freshman Levonta Taylor could get his first start at the star position.
James injured his knee in a 52-8 victory over Charleston Southern on Saturday. He injured himself making a tackle while the No. 2 Seminoles were up 42-6 in the third quarter of the game.
Fisher said there was no structural damage, and no ACL tear for his sophomore defensive back. Fisher said James will be back this season, but he'll likely be out for a while.
The timetable for James' return depends on how his surgery goes, Fisher said.
Contributing: Jordan Culver and Wayne E McGahee IIIof the Tallahassee Democrat, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK.